This summer I have the delight to be showing at the Other Art Fair Bristol, my stall is paid for and I have booked a place to stay. If you want to come along and don’t live near by the fair is in the Passenger Shed building really close to Bristol Temple Meads train station.
I have been researching the history of trade in Bristol and the work produced especially for the Fair only uses pigments that are on the imports lists of ships which docked in Bristol in 1770. This is the beginning of the boom time for Bristol. In 1668 the government monopoly in the form of the Royal African Company of the transatlantic slave trade triangle was broken and Bristol merchants stepped in big time in the form of the Society of Merchant Venturers. This transatlantic sea trade is the context of Jane Austin’s Bath elite. The builders and the elites of Bristol and Bath made their money here in the 17-1800s. And also notable are the non-conformist churches of Bristol which were central to the abolitionist movement in the UK, the Quakers and others who helped provide a platform for voices of resistance. However it is strongly arguable that the reason for abolition in the end came down to the resistance of the enslaved people after a number of uprisings in the Caribbean.
So among the wide range of imported goods to Bristol in the year 1770 is indigo. I have a gorgeous indigo. It is fair trade indigo from south India and it has this amazing red tint within the blue. Sensuous and lovely to mix, grind and apply it makes my heart sing.
Of interest to me in the collection of imports are ochres, red and yellow, madder, vermillion, pitch, tobacco, turps, linseed oil, wood, cotton, linen, lead white, Irish clay, sumac, saffron, pimento, beeswax, and sugar.
This is what I learned this weekend: Selling art is watching people fall in love.
My sales this weekend did it themselves. I watched people fall in love with work, the first person did it quietly and didn’t even want me to notice, a little relationship building quietly, hiding in the company of her friend while I spoke to other people. At the end of the Private View she came back and confidently came and bought the piece to take back with her to Australia.
With the second piece the buyer was scared and excited exactly like the beginning of a love affair, coming to and from the stand several times, and then so delighted because her husband felt the same and they “never agree on art” but this time they did.
I saw others fall, eyes widening, irises blackening with widening pupils, but then their partners came along and didn’t feel the same. So any talking I do gives context, but the paintings... they do it themselves.